Thursday, August 23, 2012
Jerry Traunfeld's Crab and Lemon Thyme Soufflé (5/24)
The last time Jerry Traunfeld's name found its way onto this here blog was when I tried my hand at his roast chicken last year. I left that experience with very good thoughts on his approach to cooking, so I dutifully snooped around the Internet for a Jerry Traunfeld recipe that I could use in this year's soufflé project. The result? A recipe for a crab and lemon thyme soufflé with a parsley-tarragon butter sauce. Sounded amazing. And it was amazing.
The concept was intimidating, but everything was actually relatively simple. First, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.
Add the milk and salt and whisk until the mixture boils and thickens.
Remove from heat, whisk in the egg yolks, and then add the minced lemon thyme.
Transfer the soufflé base to another bowl. I added some lemon zest because I just felt like I wasn't getting enough lemon from the lemon thyme alone. Place plastic wrap over the surface of the base and set aside.
While the base cools to room temperature, butter the soufflé dishes and coat with bread crumbs.
About 45 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and start whipping the egg whites.
As the egg whites slowly start to stiffen enough to form free-standing peaks, fold the crab meat into the base and season with salt and pepper.
Gently fold the egg whites into the soufflé base.
Fill a roasting pan or similarly oven-proof container with water so that the ramekins are half-immersed. Toss the entire apparatus into the oven for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the parsley-tarragon butter sauce. Start by placing the parsley and tarragon into a blender.
Combine the lemon juice, minced shallots, and salt into a saucepan until the mixture boils and reduces by half.
Then, at low heat, slowly whisk in the butter. Keep the sauce on low heat.
About 5 minutes before serving, pour the shallot-wine-butter sauce into the blender with the parsley and tarragon.
Blend until smooth. The sauce should be an alarmingly bright and vibrant green. Season with more salt to taste.
At this point, the soufflés should be done: golden-brown, puffy, and fragrant.
The water contraption can be difficult to move around, so be careful. Thankfully, these guys held up for a relatively long time without deflating.
Create a hole in the center of each soufflé with your spoon and pour in a generous amount of the sauce.
The end result was complex in flavor, comforting in temperature, and crisp and fluffy in texture. My first spoonful released a plume of addictive smells: the familiar smell of a freshly baked croissant, an unimposing cloud of lemon and parsley, and brief hints of licorice and wine.
The smell of crab only reached my nose as I was about to take my first bite. I hesitated for a short second before placing the spoonful into my mouth. A thin and giving shell, a satisfying but not overpowering flavor of egg, strong herbal notes, and generous chunks of toothsome buttery crab meat. The faint flavor of wine married the various acidic and basic ingredients into a cohesive, addictive soufflé.
This was probably the best savory soufflé I've had in a while--at home or in a restaurant.
The entire soufflé crawled its way into my stomach in a matter of seconds, like a small army of sprinting, outrageously delicious sand crabs, leaving momentary imprints on my tongue.
I know I'm already insanely behind on this project, but I just might have to make this one again before the year ends.
Until next time, Jerry Traunfeld.